About Maximapedia


SLAUGHTER-HOUSE, or ABATTOIR. In the United Kingdom slaughter-houses are of two kinds, those which belong to individual butchers and those which belong to public authorities; the former are usually called private slaughter-houses, the latter public slaughter-houses. Private slaughter-houses in existence in England before the passing of the Public Health Act 1875 were established without licence by the local authority, except in those towns to which the provisions of the Towns Improvement Clauses Act 1847, relating to slaughter-houses, were applied by special Act. By the Act of 1875 these provisions were extended to all urban districts. Subsequently to 1890 urban authorities adopting Part III. of the Public Health (Amendment Act) of that year could license for limited periods of not less than one year all slaughter-houses coming into existence after such adoption. In London, slaughter-houses have been licensed since 1855. Private slaughter-houses are frequently situated at the rear of the shop in which the meat is sold. Each consists of a compartment in which the animals are killed, and in association with this are the pounds in which a few animals can be kept pending slaughter. These buildings are regulated by by-laws made under the Public Health Act by the several urban sanitary authorities. The by-laws usually provide for the floor to be made of jointless paving, to ensure that the earth shall not be fouled in the process of slaughtering; for the walls to be cemented to a certain height above the floor, to provide a surface which can be easily cleaned; for the doors Private.

to be of sufficient width to enable cattle to enter the slaughterhouse without difficulty; and for the poundage to have floorspace sufficient for each animal. These by-laws also provide for water-supply to the slaughter-house for cleansing, and to the pounds for the use of the animals, for the periodical limewhiting of the premises, and for the observance of care to prevent the blood escaping into the drains. Private slaughter-houses, especially those which were established without licence, are often in too close proximity to inhabited buildings. In towns in which by-laws are not strictly enforced they are often sources of nuisance. Private slaughter-houses are also objectionable on other grounds. They lead to the driving of cattle through the towns on the way to the slaughter-house, sometimes to the danger of the inhabitants, and they render impossible any systematic inspection of meat. It is in connexion with the increasing demand for such meat-inspection that the objections to private slaughter-houses are most manifested; and hence, in countries in which the law provides for the obligatory inspection of meat, private slaughter-houses are ceasing to exist, and public abattoirs are being substituted for them.

Public slaughter-houses are of great antiquity and owe their beginnings to Roman civilization. In 300 B.C. animals were _ . slaughtered in the open air in the Forum in Rome. Later, to meet the convenience of butchers, a house on the river Tiber was given to them for the purposes of their trade. This house had been occupied by a Roman citizen named Macellus. The building appears to have retained his name, and hence the macellum of Livy's time subsequently erected in the Forum, which, inter alia, is believed to have contained rooms for the slaughter of animals. The rooms actually used for slaughter were lanienae, from laniare, but the word macellum has been preserved in the Italian macellare, to slaughter, and in the German metzgen or metzgeln, and in the English massacre.

Public slaughter-houses existed in many large towns of Germany in medieval times under the name of Kultelhofe; they were mostly situated on the rivers, which provided an ample supply of water, and afforded rneans for the removal of blood. Some of these Kutlelhofe continued to exist within recent years. No law other than a town law governed their establishment and management. They were owned .or controlled by the butchers' corporations or gilds, but all butchers were not members of the gilds; and this appears to have led to a ministerial order in Prussia in 1826, which made it inadmissible to require every butcher to slaughter in them. Shortly after the middle of the 19th century the prevalence of trichinosis compelled a return to the use of public slaughter-houses; and the enactment of laws in 1868 and 1881 in Prussia, and similar laws in other German states, empowered urban authorities to require that all animals killed in towns should be slaughtered in public slaughter-houses. (Schwarz, Bau, Einrichtung mid Betrieb ofentlicher Schlacht- und Viehhofe.)

In France, in the isth and 16th centuries, numerous towns were provided with public slaughter-houses. It was required that they should be used by all persons killing animals the flesh of which was to be sold; but their position and the conditions they created were such as urgently to demand amelioration, and some effort was made in this direction in 1567. It was not, however, until the time of Napoleon I. that it was decided that the atrocious nuisance which these slaughter-houses created should be removed. By decrees passed in 1807 and 1810 public slaughter-houses were required to be provided in all large towns in France, the needs of Paris being determined by a Commission, which recommended the establishment of five abattoirs or public slaughter-houses. In 1838 the requirement that public slaughterhouses should be provided in large centres was extended to all towns in France, and it was further required that the slaughterhouses should be situated at a distance from dwelling-houses.

In 1867 the large abattoir of La Villette was constructed to meet the needs of Paris, two of the five constructed under the decrees of Napoleon being closed. In 1 898 the additional abattoir of Vaugirard was opened, and the remainder of the five were Regulations.

closed except Villejuif, which was restricted in its use to the slaughter of horses for human food.

In Belgium public slaughter-houses have been provided in all the large and many of the small towns. In Switzerland there are public slaughter-houses in nearly all places having more than two thousand inhabitants. In Italy a law of 1890 required that public slaughter-houses should be erected in all communities of more than six thousand inhabitants. In Austria a law of 1850 required the provision of such places in all the large and medium-sized towns. In Norway and Sweden a law of 1892 required the provision of public slaughter-houses; but it has only partially been fulfilled. In Denmark there are public slaughterhouses in a few towns, including Copenhagen. In the Netherlands and Rumania a number of public slaughter-houses have been provided. It is in Germany, however, that the greatest progress has been made, and especially in Prussia, where, Professor Ostertag of Berlin states, they have " grown out of the ground " (Handbuch der Fleischbeschau) ; so much so that in 1897 there were 321 public slaughter-houses in the kingdom, 40 of which were provided in the period 1895-1897. A later work (Les Abattoirs publics, by J. de Loverdo, H. Martel and Mallet, 1906) gives the number of public slaughter-houses as 839 in Germany, 84 in England, 912 in France and nearly 200 in Austria. In some other countries public slaughter-houses have been provided, but they are of a primitive form.

In England the power to provide public slaughter-houses was given by the Public Health Act 1848 to the local authorities of cities, towns, boroughs, etc., to which the Act was applied by Order; and later, was given to all urban sanitary authorities by section 169 of the Public Health Act 1875. These authorities have, however, suffered from the disadvantage that they have had no power to control the continuance of private slaughter-houses (except in so far as these were annually licensed), and they have therefore been unable to ensure that the public provision would be used by the butchers. In Ireland and Scotland much the same powers exist; but in Scotland, if the burgh commissioners provide a public slaughter-house, no other slaughterhouse can be used. Some English local authorities have obtained in local acts powers similar to those possessed by the burgh commissioners in Scotland. The need for still wider control is, however, manifest. Belfast may be cited as an illustration of a town in which a public slaughter-house has been provided, and in which there are no private slaughter-houses, but which receives a quantity of meat from private slaughter-houses erected beyond the boundaries of the city. The outcome of these difficulties is that the power of local authorities to provide public slaughter-houses has been but sparingly used. There is no law requiring that meat shall be inspected before sale for human food, hence there is no obligation upon butchers to make use of public establishments for the slaughter of their cattle. This, indeed, is the position of some of the Continental slaughterhouses; but the increasing strictness of the laws as to meat- inspection, and especially in requiring that all animals shall be inspected at the time of slaughter, is making the use of public slaughter-houses obligatory. Such a law now exists in Belgium, where it has served as a model to other countries. An Imperial German law of 1900 extends to all parts of that country the same requirement, and enacts that " neat cattle, swine, sheep, goats, horses, and dogs, the meat of which is intended to be used for food for man, shall be subjected to an official inspection both before and after slaughter." Antecedent to that year it was in force in southern Germany, in Brunswick and Saxony, but only in some parts of northern, western and central Germany. A similar law exists in Norway and Sweden, but, as already stated, provision of public slaughter-houses is still meagre; in Austria-Hungary there is a similar requirement, but Ostertag states that the administration is lacking in uniformity; in Italy, he writes, the regulation of meat-inspection having been left to provincial authorities, thorough reform is impossible. In the British colonies advance is being made. New Zealand has a number of public slaughter-houses. The Meat Supervision Act of Victoria empowers the Board of Health to make regulations for ensuring the wholesomeness of meat supplies. Regulations have been made for Melbourne. Cattle are killed in public slaughter-houses and the carcases are stamped, thus showing in which slaughter-house they have been killed.

The planning and construction of public slaughter-houses have been the subject of excellent treatises by German writers, among whom may be mentioned Dr Oscar Schwarz, of Stolp, coastrucand Herr Osthoff, a former city architect of Berlin, to <ton< whose works the writer of this article is largely indebted for information. After inspection of the public slaughter-houses in England and in a number of Continental cities, the writer considers that those of Germany are most deserving of description.

The slaughter-house should be situated outside the town, or so SLAUGHTER-HOUSE placed as to be isolated, and approached by wide roads, so that if cattle are driven through them there should not be interference with the traffic. If possible, the slaughter-house should be connected with the railway system by a branch line, with a platform which has an impervious surface capable of being readily cleansed and disinfected. The most convenient shape of the site is a rectangle or square, having one side abutting on the principal road and another side bounded by the railway. A cattle-market is usually provided in connexion with the slaughter-house, and the position should be such that cattle brought by train can be taken immediately into the cattlemarket and from the market or the railway to the slaughter-house. The cattle-market should be entirely separate from the slaughterhouse area. Osthoff states (Schlachthiife fiir kleine und mittelgrosse Stadte) that the area of the slaughter-house should be as follows :

Sq. Metres.

Towns of 5,000- 7,000 inhabitants . 0-40 per inhabitant. 7,000-10,000 . 0-35 ,, 10,000-50,000 ,, . 0-30 ,, ,, over 50,000 . 0-25 ,, It is of course assumed that the population derives the whole of its meat-supply from this source.

The parts required, according to Dr Oscar Schwarz, are: (i) an administrative block; (2) a slaughtering-hall, with a special room for scalding swine; (3) cattle lairs; (4) room for scalding and cleansing tripe and intestines; (5) an engine-house; (6) separate slaughtering-room, with lairs for animals suffering from, or suspected to be suffering from, contagious disease.

In small towns the slaughtering-hall and room for cleansing intestines may, to save cost of construction, be under the same roof. A necessary adjunct is a cold chamber, to which carcases can be removed from the slaughtering-hall. The actual slaughtering compartment has been built on two plans one providing a separate slaughtering-room for each butcher, the other a common slaughtering-hall. The latter is greatly to be preferred, inasmuch as it is the only arrangement which gives adequate opportunity for inspection by the officials whose duty it is to examine the meat. The slaughter-house in Berlin was constructed on the separate-room system; but the system gave rise to difficulties of inspection. During recent years in Germany the practice has been to construct slaughter-houses with common halls. The part occupied by each butcher at the time of slaughtering is, however, sufficiently distinguishable, and at Hamburg the position of the hooks hanging from above divides the hall into separate areas, each of which has an entrance from without. Schwarz gives the following as the most convenient arrangement of the buildings: The administrative building (with the house of the superintendent) at the entrance, so that from it the entrance and whole place can be seen. In the vicinity should be a weighing-machine for cattle. The centre of the area is occupied by the slaughtering-halls, and the lairs belonging to them are only separated from them by a road or passage way. The manure-house and tripe-house must be easily accessible from all the slaughtering-halls, but not in direct communication with them, or smell from them may enter the hall.

The manure-house must abut upon a road, to enable its contents to be removed without passing through the premises. Next to the tripe and pig-scalding houses is the engine-house. The building for diseased animals, with the slaughter-house for them, must be isolated from all other buildings. All buildings should be so arranged that they may be capable of extension as the population of the town increases. By the provision of grass plots and trees every effort should be made to relieve the premises of the dreary appearance they will otherwise present.

Cold chambers, although not included among the absolute essentials for small slaughter-houses, are an almost necessary adjunct, for they serve for the preservation of the meat after slaughter, and are indeed absolutely necessary when the slaughter-house is of large size. The cold chamber should be situated opposite the slaughteringhalls, so that carcases can be conveyed by overhead carriers directly from these halls to it. Within the cold chamber are separate compartments or cages of different sizes, rented by butchers, who are thus able to preserve their meat and draw upon their supply as their business may require. The cold chamber is therefore a great convenience to the butchers, and is a source of profit to the authority owning the slaughter-house. A frequent adjunct to large German slaughter-houses is the " Freibank, at which is sold at low price cooked meat of quality which renders it unfit to be sold under ordinary conditions.

Much depends upon the design and details of construction of the several component parts of a public slaughter-house, upon the provision of adequate lighting and ventilation of the buildings, upon the construction of walls, floors, and fittings which are impermeable and can be readily cleansed, and upon the provision of an abundant water-supply. It is essential that the buildings should be well lighted, especially those which are used for the slaughtering operations, or for any detailed examination of meat which may be needed such, for instance, as for trichinae. The material generally used for the floor of the slaughtering-hall is cement or granolithic pavement which must not present so smooth a surface as to be slippery. The floor must have an adequate fall, so that the washings may discharge into a system of drainage.

The plans of the public slaughter-house of Neusalz on the Oder and of Düsseldorf well illustrate the provision which is now made respectively for a small and for a large town. The writer is indebted to Dr Schwarz for the plan and a description of the slaughter-house at Neusalz. It was completed in October 1899, and is erected on the Oder below the town, on land of an area of 8500 square metres. The building was carefully planned by the town architect, Herr Brannaschk, so as to admit of increase within the next 10-20 years. Brickwork is used for the construction of the buildings, and the roofs are of wood and cement. The walls of all the rooms except those of the administrative block are lined partly with polished stone, partly with cement, to a height of two metres above the floor. The floors consist of stone slabs set in cement (fig. i).

The administrative block (A) is situated at the entrance and is a three-storey building, containing an office, a room for examination of meat for trichinae, and dwelling-rooms for the superintendent. In the central block (B) two slaughter-halls are provided (a) for swine and (b) for cattle and sheep. With these are associated (c) an engine-house, (d) a boiler and fuel room, (e) a workshop, (/) a passage communicating with the two slaughter-halls, (g) a cold chamber, (h) ante-rooms to the cold chamber, (i) dressing-rooms for assistants, and (k) stabling. The cold chamber has an area of 169 square metres and contains 28 cells of various sizes. In order to attain an even temperature of 2 C. to 4 C., air rendered cold by < Hirer Oder Slaty 'hterhause Street The figures give measurements in metres.

FIG. i. Plan of Public Slaughter-house at Neusalz on the Oder (1899).

the ammonia process is conveyed to the room by channels. In the engine-house (c) are a 48-horse-power engine, the cooling machines, and the water-pump, which pumps water from a well into two cisterns situated in a water-tower over the passage between the two slaughter-halls. In the outbuilding (C) are (a) and (b) the gutwashing rooms for cattle and swine respectively, (c) an ante-room with (d) openings for manure to be thrown into carts. The road (e) slopes downwards, so as to enable a cart to be driven below the openings through which the manure is discharged. In the outbuilding (D) are (a) a horse slaughtering-room, (6) a stable, (c) a bathroom, (d) a room in which the floor washings are treated chemically or by filtration before discharge into the river, and (e) a urinal. In the outbuilding (E) are (a) a stable for sick animals, (b) a slaughter-house for diseased animals, (c) a sterilizing-room for meat to be subsequently sold in (d) the " Freibank," (e) a stable for horses, and (f) a cart-shed. The slaughter-house is lighted with electric light. The cost of the buildings is about 19,000, and provides for a population of 20,000 to 25,000 inhabitants.

The slaughter-house at Düsseldorf is on a more extensive scale. It was erected at an estimated cost of from 162,000 to 175,000, and covers an area of about 23-2 acres. Provision is made for each department to be practically doubled in size. It is unnecessary to describe it in any detail, but it may be noted that it has a market associated with it, and that separate slaughter-halls are provided for large cattle, for small cattle (sheep and calves), and for swine (fig. 2). Slaughter-houses in Germany pay their own expenses, the fees received for the use of the slaughter-house, and for examination of meat and stamping after examination, providing a sufficient sum for this purpose. The fees vary in different places. From the works of Osthoff and Schwarz it would appear that these fees average about one pfennig per kilogramme of the living animal, or about half a farthing per B> of meat.

The corporation of the city of London have erected a slaughterhouse at their cattle market in Islington in which slaughtering is done in a large hall divided by partitions into separate compartments. The compartments are not let to separate butchers but are used in common. The partitions do not extend to the ceiling, but are sufficiently high to prevent the slaughtering in one compartment being seen by the occupants of other compartments, and thus they necessarily provide less opportunity for inspection than is afforded by the open-slaughtering halls of Germany. The fees charged are is. 6d. per head for bullocks, 4d. for calves, 2d. for sheep, and 6d. per head for pigs. The accommodation is estimated as sufficient for the slaughter of 400 cattle, 1200 sheep, and 1200 calves and pigs per day.

The centralization of the slaughtering and packing industries in the United States has not required slaughter-houses on the same plan as in Europe. Acts of Congress of 1890, 1891 and 1895 endeavoured to provide some amount of inspection, but sufficient appropriations were never made to carry it out, and there were also certain loopholes in the legislation. Although there were from time to time frequent cases of sickness directly traceable to the consumption of canned meats from the great packing centres, it was not until the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906), which dealt with the conditions in the Chicago packing yards, that steps were taken adequately to guard the public against insanitary conditions. A commission of inquiry was appointed by President Roosevelt, and as a result of its report there was passed in 1906 a national meat inspection law. This act required the department of agriculture to appoint inspectors to examine and inspect all cattle, sheep, swine and goats before being allowed to enter into any slaughtering, packing, meat-canning, rendering or similar establishments. All such animals found to show any symptoms of disease must be set apart and slaughtered separately. All carcases must be inspected and labelled as either " inspected and passed " or " inspected and condemned." The act also provides for the inspection (and condemnation if necessary) of all meat food products as well as for the sanitary examination of all slaughtering, packing and canning establishments. Inspection and examination is now carried out very carefully at all stages of the industry, from inspection of the animals before they enter the slaughtering establishments up to the finished product.

The important feature of the Chicago and certain other western American cities slaughter-houses is their adaptation for rapidly dealing with the animals which they receive. At the Chicago slaughter-houses the cattle to be slaughtered are driven up a winding viaduct, by which, in certain of the houses, they eventually reach the roof. Each animal now passes into a narrow pen, where it is at once stunned by a blow on the head. It then falls through a trapdoor in the pen into an immense slaughtering-room, where the hind legs are secured, and the animal hoisted by a wire rope suspended from a trolley-line. A knife is then plunged into its throat and the carcase made to travel along the line. The carcase is next lowered to the floor, the hide taken off, the head and feet cut off, and the internal parts removed. The carcase again travels along the trolleyline to a place where it is divided into halves, which then, after washing, travel to the refrigeration-room, being trimmed while on the way. The extent of the business may be judged by the fact that over 400 cattle are killed per hour in the slaughtering-room. The cooling-rooms are so large that 13,000 halves of beef hang there at one time. The method of dealing with sheep is very similar. The animals are driven into narrow alleys, then into the slaughterroom, where their throats are cut. They next travel along a route where their skins and the internal organs are removed, and finally pass into the cooling-rooms. Swine are raised in the slaughterroom on to the trolley-line by a chain attached to the animals' feet and to a solid disk or wheel, which in revolving carries them until a mechanical contrivance throws the chain upon the trolley-line, where a knife is plunged into their throat. In its subsequent passage the carcase is scalded, scraped by a machine through which it passes, later.decapitated, the internal parts removed, and the interior washed. The carcase then travels to the cooling-room.

In 1904 a British departmental (Admiralty) committee on the humane slaughtering of animals recommended that all animals should be stunned before being bled, and, with a view to sparing animals awaiting slaughter the sights and smells of the slaughterhouse, that " cattle should, when possible, be slaughtered screened off from their fellows. This can be arranged in moderate-sized abattoirs by dividing up the side of the slaughter-chamber opposite to the entrance doors into stalls somewhat similar to those in a stable, but considerably wider. For quiet home-grown cattle a width of 10 ft. is sufficient, but where wilder cattle have to be killed a wider space is probably desirable. It is important that these stalls should be so arranged as not to screen the operations of slaughter from the view of the inspecting officials. Immediately after the carcases have been bled, they should be moved on to and ' dressed ' in an adjoining room, screened off from the view of animals entering the slaughter-chamber. This is easily accomplished by hitching a rope (from the winch, if necessary) round the head or forelegs of the carcase, and by dragging it along the floor for the short distance into the ' dressing room. ' The slaughter-stall should then at once be flushed down with the hose, so as to remove all traces of blood. This method leaves the slaughter spaces clear for the next batch of animals, whereas under the existing system there is either a loss of time through the slaughter spaces being blocked up with dressing operations, or else the next batch of animals on being brought into the slaughter-chamber are confronted with mutilated and disembowelled carcases."

The provision of public slaughter-houses enables control to be exercised over the methods of slaughtering. The above-mentioned committee state that they practically tested a large number of appliances designed for felling and stunning animals previous to " pithing," among which they mention the Bruneau and Baxter masks, the Greener patent killer, the Blitz instrument, and the Wackett punch, all ot which are suitable for quiet cattle or horses. In view of the difficulty of adjusting these instruments in the case of wild or restive animals, the committee express the opinion that the poll-axe when used by an expert is on the whole the most satisfactory implement, but they recommend that no man should be permitted to use the poll-axe on a living animal until he has gone through a thorough course of training, firstly upon a dummy animal and secondly upon dead bodies. Calves, the committee state, should be stunned by a blow on the head with a club. With respect to the method of slaughter of sheep the committee discuss the method usually adopted in England, which is " to lay the sheep on a wooden crutch and then to thrust a knife through the neck below the ears, and with a second motion to insert the point, from within, between the joints of the vertebrae, thus severing the spinal cord." Observations made for the committee by Professor Starling showed that the interval between the first thrust of the knife and complete loss of sensibility varied from five to thirty seconds, and they therefore recommended that sheep should be stunned before being stuck, a practice required in Denmark, many parts of Germany, and Switzerland. It is necessary that the sheep should be struck on the top of the head between the ears and not on the forehead. The insensibility produced by the blow was found to last fully twenty seconds, a period sufficiently long for the killing to be completed if the animal is laid on the crutch before being stunned. The stunning of pigs, the committee recommended, should be insisted upon in all cases, and not, as sometimes at present, only practised in the case of large pigs which give trouble or with a view to the avoidance of noise.

The Jewish method of slaughter by cutting the throat is condemned by the committee after careful observation and after receiving reports by Sir Michael Foster and Professor Starling, the chief objection to this method being that it fails in the primary requirements of rapidity, freedom from unnecessary pain, and instantaneous loss of sensibility.

The use of public slaughter-houses has not been found to affect the prices of meat, although one of the numerous arguments used by butchers against being required to slaughter in public slaughterhouses was that they would have this effect. Inquiry on this subject by a Swedish veterinary surgeon of Stockholm, Kjerrulf, of 560 towns possessing public slaughter-houses, elicited replies from 388. Of these, 261 towns declared that as a result of the compulsory use of the abattoirs and compulsory meat inspection the price of meat had not been raised. In the case of twenty-two towns prices rose temporarily but soon reverted to their normal level. In many cases it was alleged that the temporary rise was due, not to the abattoir, but to other causes, notably the scarcity of live stock {Our Slaughter-house System by C. Cash, and The German Abattoir by Hugo Heiss, 1907).

The increasing recognition in European countries of the need for inspection, at the time of slaughter, of the flesh of all cattle intended to suppy food for man, the necessity for the provision of public slaughter-houses to make such inspection practicable, the convenience which these slaughter-houses afford to those engaged in the business of butcher, combine to ensure that, at any rate in all populous places, they will in time entirely supersede private slaughter-houses, which offer none of these advantages. No doubt the provision of public slaughter-houses will continue to be opposed by the butchers' trade so long as private slaughter houses are permitted, and, as already stated, local authorities in England are discouraged from making public provision by their inability to prevent the continuance of the use of all existing private slaughter-houses. Probably the extension to English local authorities of the power which the law of Scotland gives to the commissioners of Scottish burghs of closing private slaughter-houses when a public slaughter-house has been, provided, would facilitate the much-needed substitution of public for private slaughter-houses. (S. F. M.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR